Moomins on the Riviera

Is it Moomin’ marvellous? Well, yes and no…

Going into this film with no context of The Moomins is inadvisable. In fact, I would probably recommend this film only to big fans of the Moomins (shout out to Carrie ‘Cookie’ Turner-Gould and Matthew at this point!) Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of the Moomins. Although I have vague memories of the cartoon series, of strange hippo-looking creatures going on adventures, I do not really remember enough of the series to confirm that this film is merely a continuation onto the big screen. And I really did not remember The Moomins being so… strange…

The film opens with Snuffkin (yes I have got tabs open of Google and IMDB to help with this review!) strolling across Moomin Valley.In fact the entire opening sequence (3-5 mins) is of Snuffkin on his journey, of what and who he sees along the way. It is in this aspect the film really excels – the artwork and colouring is truly extraordinary. Every single frame could be printed off and used as artwork. The hand-drawn animation is truly glorious to watch on the big screen, and sets up a would could be described as a whimsical and quaint tone for the rest of the film. Or you could describe it as tedious. But I digress…

Finally, Snuffkin arrives at his journey. At the point the party (literally) gets started. Moominpappa makes a speech about how at this present moment he would not want to be anywhere else. He then plays a bit with fire then the party is over. Then we cut to the next day and a pirate ship is the distance (there is no transition or explanation, which may divide audiences) It starts to sink and the pirates escape – leaving behind their prisoners, Little My and her sister, who are tied up. They have also abandoned two treasures chests – one filled with gold and the other, seeds. The Moomins go to scavenge, accidentially rescuing the hostages in the process. The pirates come to collect their treasure chest from the Moomin family – who chose to collect books, fireworks and seeds instead. The pirates leave. The next day, whilst relaxing in the garden, they decide to go to the Riveria. They go to the Riveria. Various adventures happen. They go home.

And that is it in terms of the plot. It is incredibly simplistic and that both works, yet also doesn’t. Yes, it is a kids film but that doesn’t mean it has to be so simple or almost lackadaisical. Also, if this really is a kids film, I’m not so sure they would understand that many of the jokes or nuances. In fact the entire sequence in the Riveria is essentially a satire of a Monte Carlo- esque resort: about how ‘appearances can be deceptive’, to ‘be careful what you wish for’ and how ‘the grass isn’t greener on the other side’. Snorkmaiden is wooed by a charming celebrity man/dog/thing, who rivals Moomin in her afffections. It takes a fencing duel for her to realise the error of her ways. One character, the Marquis Mongaga, in fact personifies woes of consumerism completely. He spends most of the film charmed by the misadventures of Moominpappa (adventures I can only presume are recounted events from the comic strips?) until he feels bold enough to confess- he would give it all up to be a poor, struggling artist. Needless to say, he isn’t really suited to the lifestyle he has glamourised.  In this sense the film is quite clever, gently poking fun at bohemia and culture with some rather sharp gags. But this is done in a manner far too episodic for it to actually flow as a film.

This film, perhaps like marmite, will divide audiences totally. One side will leave the cinema describing it with adjectives including, ‘wistful’, ‘gentle’, ‘charming’, ‘mischievous’, ‘heartwarming’ and ‘eccentric’.

The other side will leave asking, ‘What did I just see..?’

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